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Who is Ian Maatsen? Too small for Feyenoord but now closing on a Chelsea debut

11:17 GMT+3 25/09/2019
Ian Maatsen
There is a new kid on the block in west London and he is edging his way to becoming the latest to jump from the academy to the first team

Frank Lampard has started Chelsea's season with two senior players for every position but beneath that is a layer of hungry talent like Ian Maatsen.

The 17-year-old is now going to be thrust into the spotlight in front of 42,000 fans against Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night as Emerson Palmieri is set to sit out the next four matches with a thigh injury.

Maatsen was taken to Wolves earlier this month, but was not selected in the matchday squad for the 5-2 win at Molineux. That is part of the learning curve for a player who will likely settle as a left-back but who has experience of playing at centre-back and in central midfield.

Known in his native Netherlands after winning the European Under-17 Championship and scoring in the final, Maatsen’s football journey began in Vlaardingen in South Holland where everyone saw Feyenoord as the club to play for.

His talents were quickly spotted as he joined the academy at seven years old but Feyenoord would eventually drop the youngster for being too small. He switched to Sparta Rotterdam before getting back to a top club academy at PSV.

Dalian Maatsen is the cousin of the Chelsea teenager and, although eight years senior to Ian, he was in the Feyenoord academy at the same time. His own football journey saw him line up alongside the likes of Nathan Ake, Terence Kongolo and Karim Rekik, but he would take time out to watch his cousin in the younger age group.

"I think everyone is already very proud because we were at Feyenoord together at the youth academy but they said he was too short so he went to Sparta," Dalian Maatsen told Goal. "He did well and then goes to PSV, from PSV to Chelsea.

"He was disappointed when he had to leave Feyenoord at seven or eight years old. I am proud because it has gone very quickly. He is training with the first-team squad.

“When I see the pictures, I say to him, ‘I play with Willian, Marcos Alonso and these guys as Chelsea on FIFA and you are in the same dressing room. Go for it. You have nothing to lose and you are with them’. That’s what I say to him.

“These things can go quickly one way or another. For him, it is good and he doesn’t need to put too much pressure on himself.

"He can make his debut this season under Frank Lampard but he is 17 years old so he has time. He can still learn from training sessions and youth matches. He is already doing well and he is one of the best in the Under-18s. He can wait for his chance when Chelsea need him."

Dalian's brother Darren Maatsen went via the non-league route to the professional game, where he now plays with RKC Waalwijk. He believes that, although his cousin is talented, it is his mentality to overcome setbacks that have played a major role on the path to a first-team debut at Chelsea.

"At that age it is very difficult to take, seeing other boys get through when you are dropped at Under-13s. It must have been hard for him, especially as a young boy," Darren Maatsen told Goal. "Going through every year and you aren’t tall enough to be a Feyenoord player. It is a tough one to swallow.

"In Holland, you always hear people complain when boys go abroad at that age that they are destined to fail. He is proving everyone wrong. There is a lot of pride deep down. We still treat him the same and he treats us the same but deep down there is a lot of pride.

"We are very happy for him. He is representing our family name at such a high level and with such a big team. I believe there is a big chance for him in football at the top level. Even if it is not at Chelsea but somewhere else. I think he has both mentality and natural talent.

"He went through the academy straight away at six. He has always been around other people desperate to be pros. It is a combination of that and talent."

The Maatsen family only became a footballing one in this generation and a large part of Ian’s success may have come from his father Edward, who is a former military man.

"His father is disciplined and he told him what to do and not to do," Dalian Maatsen added. "He can get cross if you misbehave. He encouraged him to do extra training. It is good for Ian because he is now 17 and everyone deals with girls and people are inviting you to parties.

"As a young player at Chelsea, if you come back to Holland, everyone treats you like a hero. It is good that his father can teach him to stay focused like that. I am glad he is like his dad because he knows to focus. I am proud of him that he can shut that out at his age."

Maatsen will now hope he gets the opportunity to demonstrate his footballing ability and mental focus against Grimsby, with fellow teenagers Billy Gilmour, Marc Guehi and Tino Anjorin also in the squad for the Carabao Cup tie as Lampard’s youth revolution at Stamford Bridge continues.